Gregory PolekContented Pilots, Desperate Dispatchers at American Eagle

 - February 6, 2007, 4:49 AM

Pilots for American Eagle, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, ratified a new collective bargaining agreement last month that grants them pay raises and improved retirement benefits over the next four years of a 16-year contract signed in 1997. The new deal grants a pay hike of 4 percent starting on January 1 and another 1 percent starting a year later. It also includes improvements to the pilots’ 401(k) plan and “quality of life” provisions.

Management’s labor troubles didn’t end with the pilot deal, however, as it watched dispatchers stage a one-day sickout that led to 38 flight cancellations at American Eagle’s Caribbean unit, Executive Airlines, on October 29. The work action delayed another 39 flights by at least an hour, as managers scrambled to fill in for the 16 dispatchers who called in sick.

American Eagle began negotiations in September 2002 with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) over contracts for three of the TWU-represented groups–fleet service employees, mechanics and American Eagle’s 90 dispatchers. In July last year the company agreed to negotiate the dispatch contract separately. Since asking for federal mediation in February, the sides have made little progress toward a settlement.